Adults with a mental illness receive more than 50 percent of the 115 million opioid prescriptions in the United States annually, according to a study released Monday. The results prompted researchers to suggest that improving pain management for people with mental health problems "is critical to reduce national dependency on opioids."
People with mental health disorders represent 16 percent of the U.S. population.
The findings are worrisome, the researchers reported. They had expected that physicians were more conservative in prescribing these painkillers to people with mental illness.
"We are prescribing way too much opioids," said Dr. Brian Sites, an anesthesiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire and one of the study's researchers. "And that prescription behavior is resulting in significant morbidity in the country."